The Role of Major Donors in Health Aid to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Haewon Lee, Deborah Y. Ahn, Soyoung Choi, Youngchan Kim, Hyunju Choi, Sang Min Park
Abstract: We investigated the major trends in health aid financing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) by identifying the primary donor organizations and examining several data sources to track overall health aid trends. We collected gross disbursements from bilateral donor countries and international organizations toward the DPRK according to specific health sectors by using the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development creditor reporting system database and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs financial tracking service database. We analyzed sources of health aid to the DPRK from the Republic of Korea (ROK) using the official records from the ROK’s Ministry of Unification. We identified the ROK, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) as the major donor entities not only according to their level of health aid expenditures but also their growing roles within the health sector of the DPRK. We found that health aid from the ROK is comprised of funding from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, private organizations, local governments, and South Korean branches of international organizations such as WHO and UNICEF. We also distinguished medical equipment aid from developmental aid to show that the majority of health aid from the ROK was developmental aid. This study highlights the valuable role of the ROK in the flow of health aid to the DPRK, especially in light of the DPRK’s precarious international status. Although global health aid from many international organizations has decreased, organizations such as GFATM and UNFPA continue to maintain their focus on reproductive health and infectious diseases.